Category Archives: family

Young King Arthur’s Ten Year Quest

DreamWrights strives to give as many participants as possible the opportunity to experience our interactive art. Young King Arthur is comprised of two casts of 40 each and two crews of 20 each plus staff, making an approximately 120 people involved. These 120 people set out on their quest to bring the story of a young King Arthur to stage, opening on April 8.

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On right, Artistic Director, Diane Crews in 2006

This quest has been paved by an earlier community of cast, crew, and staff. Young King Arthur was written by Diane Crews and performed at DreamWrights in 2006, the premiere show in its then new black box theatre space. “Ten years is a long time,” Diane Crews, DreamWrights Artistic Director muses. “Most of the [former]cast will have finished their schooling and now are busy raising their own children.”

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Jerry Young, front left, in 2006

There is only one actor who is actually reprising his role as Merlin. He is Diane’s son-in-law and the father of her grandchildren, Jerry Young. Diane has a soft spot for this character, “Merlin, was my kind of teacher. He is patient enough to let his students learn, and he knows that experience is indeed the best teacher. Plus he cares enough to let go when, ‘It is time.’”

In addition to Jerry, the staff has five returning members. Rebecca Eastman is designing costumes again. In 2006, Jan Ruman was a Props Mistress and Corinne Brown was a food coordinator and now they are now both on the costume crew. And, in 2006 Karen Watson was a Producer, but now is DreamWrights’ front –of-house decorator. Ann Davis was PSM in 2006 and now she is the Executive Director of DreamWrights!

As far as Diane and her quest in life? “That’s too simple,” she says. “I have been on mine for the majority of my life, and will remain so until I am no longer.” Diane declares that since the age of ten or so, she has felt the need to make a difference. “Of course, at that time I had no idea what it could be. I was going to join the Peace Corps right out of high school, but decided I needed to know more.” So, she chose college instead. That’s where she discovered theatre.

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Young King Arthur in 2006

Diane sums it up nicely. “It really is quite fascinating how our lives evolve. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that live theatre happened to me. I knew this was it! Ever since, my quest has been to share this most important, universal and ancient art form with as many people as one person is able.”

Bravo, Diane! So far so good!

A Young King Arthur Reunion for the 2006 cast and crew is planned for April 23 at 1pm. Participants are encouraged to stay for the 2:30pm matinee and relive the magic of young Arthur’s quest.

Tech Stuff is for Girls!

Catie D.
Catie

DreamWrights’ Technical Director, Bob (T. Builder) McCleary can often be overheard singing the praises of his tech teams. Recently, he has been particularly impressed by two girls – the Dinnneen sisters. Catie and Hannah Dineen have three brothers (Tom, 13; Scot, 15; Sean, 18) but it is the girls in this family that have made the largest impression on Bob.

Catie and Hannah got involved in theater when they were 8 and 4 respectively. Not long after, they started doing tech work with Bob. They enjoyed being at the theater, so whenever they were not cast in a show, they got involved working on the crew.

Catie reveals, “It’s cool to be behind the scenes because not everyone gets that opportunity.” Hannah chimes in, “It’s been fun learning all the different jobs at the theater.”

Bob believes it is the girls’ attitudes that make them so good. Bob explains that these girls “try hard and do a good job.  They will take a shot at anything I ask.”

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Hannah

Catie is an 11th grade homeschooler.  She has been involved in the homeschool shows, the summer shows, worked on planning and organizing the Teen Ball, and most currently you might’ve seen her in  Flippin’ Broadway. This 16 year old has participated in casts, stage crew, lights, spot light, costumes, set building, and a variety of other odd jobs.

Hannah is 11 years old and in the 6th grade. She is involved with the homeschool shows, stage crew, lights, sound, projector, props, set building and anything Bob tells her to do.

If you happen to see these girls with a drill in their hand or climbing up a ladder, pay attention! You might just learn a thing or two!

Sew in the Family

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Cali Fife with great grandmother, Romaine Coeyman

Romaine Coeyman and her great-granddaughter, Cali Fife, were been born more than 70 years apart, but surprisingly, they have a lot more in common than just DNA. They both share the love of sewing and creating. And what’s more, they have done much of their craft in the exact same place, but more than 50 years apart.

Romaine Coeyman began working in the William Bernstein Sewing Factory in 1960, soon after the birth of her son. “I liked the job because I got to set sleeves. I loved that!” Coeyman remembers.

She says she always enjoyed sewing and the friendships she made at work. “I always think of [my work] around Christmas time.” She remembers setting tables up and having a potluck lunch to celebrate the season. “It was really jolly at Christmas time.” Coeyman mostly worked on the second floor in the sewing area where she sewed night gowns. She has fond memories of her days at the sewing factory.

These days, the Bernstein Sewing Factory building is occupied by DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre, where many kids, like fifteen year old Cali Fife, fell in love with designing for the performing arts. Fife used to dance but she quickly realized that she loved the costumes more than the spotlight. She found her comfort zone creating costumes at DreamWrights, working in the second floor sewing area, exactly where her great-grandmother worked decades previously.

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Cute bag created by Fife

Fife enjoys creating with fabric and has made many friends through her craft, just like her great-grandmother. She enjoys the collaborative nature of sewing and designing, and in fact, even has her own online shop called Cali Ann, where she creates cool scarves, clever pouches, cute bags, and even the occasional custom costume.

Although the space is much different than what she remembers, Coeyman is amazed at the transformation of the building from a sewing factory to a theatre space. “I love it! I think it is amazing!” And when asked what she thinks about her great-granddaughter sewing and creating, just like she herself did more than a half century ago, Coeyman sums it up simply, “That’s nice. She really loves it too.”

A One-of-a-Kind Santa

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1997 Miracle on 34th Street

Since Christmas of 1997, Santa has been a DreamWrights institution. In fact, Santa is a DreamWrights founding member and has participated in 22 consecutive Christmas shows with Artistic Director, Diane Crews, starting with her even prior to her DreamWrights days. Santa got his DreamWrights start in 1997 by playing the role of Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. Although a lot of work, Santa found it very rewarding and fun and agreed to continue visiting DreamWrights every year for breakfasts, playlets, and even to play himself in the Christmas shows.

When asked about his favorite part of the job, Santa exclaimed that he loves working with the children, especially the ones who are afraid of him! A little shy himself, Santa enjoys trying to win over the kids who aren’t sure. To do this, he spends a lot of time on the floor. Santa explained, “Getting to their level seems to relax them.  I have quite often ended up with hugs from children that were at first afraid to get near me.”

Santa is often touched by hearing emotional requests from children for gifts that are hard to deliver. “Sometimes I get touching requests for people other than themselves including, moms, dads, siblings, or acquaintances, and the occasional request for someone they know to get better.  It can be tough to hear such requests.”

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Santa in 2011

But, most often kids ask for gifts for themselves, including some strange requests. A real pig, a real unicorn, and empty boxes are some of the more peculiar requests he’s gotten. Turns out, the empty boxes were for fort building. Santa joked, “When a child doesn’t know what they want I always suggest broccoli, since I have a lot of it at the North Pole.  The look on the child’s face is always priceless and the answer is always, ‘NO!’”

Drawbacks of the job? Growing Santa’s beard! Not too many people know this, but Santa’s beard falls off right after Christmas (probably from the cold air blowing on it while he’s flying in the sleigh).  Santa then spends the whole year growing it to get it into Christmas shape!

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2013 Miracle on 34th Street

Over the  years, Santa has created great memories, a sense of accomplishment, and fondness for his time at DreamWrights. “I want everyone to know that the years I spent at DreamWrights went so fast, were so much fun, and the people I met were the best, friendliest, and most dedicated that I have ever met!” And then Santa said one last, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” as he drove out of sight!

Of course, Santa will be visiting DreamWrights again next year. However, you may notice a change in him. Perhaps the change will be a result of Santa’s relaxing, sunny days in warmer climates. Never fear, he will still be spreading Christmas cheer. You can count on that!

All in the Family

Any time of year is a wonderful time to get involved with your family at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. However, a holiday show at DreamWrights with your family is extra special. A handful of families participate in the theatre as a complete (or nearly complete) family.  Because they love it so much, they keep coming back for more.

Natalie Smith as Grace Bradley, center in navy
Natalie Smith as Mrs. Grace Bradley, center in navy.

Natalie Smith and her three children have done three shows at DreamWrights including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is currently running. After living abroad for many years, Natalie looked for something to help her family get oriented with their new community when they moved into the area. Natalie explains, “DreamWrights offers a place for all of us to feel welcome and connected. The people involved with this theatre are so friendly and family-focused. It’s a fun way to spend quality family time together and the holiday show definitely puts us in the holiday spirit!”

Andrea Unger, far left as Mrs. Irma Slocum. Her husband, David Unger, center as Reverend Hopkins
Andrea Unger, far left as Mrs. Irma Slocum. Her husband, David Unger, center as Reverend Hopkins.

Andrea Unger, her husband, and her youngest son have participated in ten DreamWrights shows together, including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. “Since we are a small family (our two oldest boys are out of state as are our other relatives) being in the Christmas shows has been like celebrating the holidays with an extended family,” she jokes, “…one that you actually like and want to spend time with!”

Natalie says there are many perks to participating together as a family. “It gives us some fun conversation topics at home. We all enjoy meeting new people at DreamWrights and also seeing other families we’ve been with before.” Andrea’s son, Jonah explains, “Being together gives me an opportunity to talk over the play with my family, to receive critiques and suggestions….and also to give them.”

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Jonah and Dave Unger on stage together.

After rehearsals and the performances the Ungers pile in the car and go over the show in detail, all the way home. They discuss any mishaps that may have occurred, (Andrea discloses, “Live theatre! Yes, it happens!”) talk about audience reactions, as well as things upon which they could change or improve.  “We talk and laugh and tweak all through the run of the show,” Andrea reveals. Over the course of the shows in which the Ungers have been involved, they have developed some family traditions:  Handel’s for ice cream after auditions, recording the script to help with memorizing lines, and giving little surprises to each other instead of flowers after the last performance, to mention a few.

All three of Natalie Smith's children perform in the play along with her.
All three of Natalie Smith’s children perform in the play along with her.

Natalie loves having the opportunity to participate in activities like live theatre with her children. “I hope someday they will look back on this experience and want to participate in activities like this with their own children.” Andrea gets right to a big reason why DreamWrights is special. “While we participate in theatre as a family, we do this at Jonah’s lead; theater is where he wants to be. DreamWrights has made it possible for us to do this together.  I don’t know of any other theatre that considers the entire family during the selection process.”

To see how much fun the Smiths and the Ungers are having this holiday season, join us for a performance of the The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on December 11, 12, 18 & 19 – 6:30 pm or December 12, 13, 19 & 20 – 2:30 pm. Then bring yourself (or even better –  the whole family) to audition for The Secret Garden on December 15 or 16 at 6pm.  Visit dreamwrights.org for more information.